DALLAS — It was admittedly the Dallas Mavericks’ weakness this season. But, with hopes of keeping this year’s team intact, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle can envision the defensive side of the ball becoming Dallas’ calling card going forward.
Excelling as an offensive juggernaut during the 2013-14 season, the Mavericks ranked eighth in the NBA in points scored while putting up 104.8 an outing. The Mavs also dished out 23.6 assists a game, which was good for sixth as a team.
But it was the defensive side of the ball that would often let the Mavs down, ranking 20th in the league while allowing 102.4 points a contest and 22nd with a 108.7 defensive rating.
“We don’t have a bunch of individual stoppers,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle confessed during the season. “We’ve got [Shawn] Marion, who to me is perennial all-defense, even though he never gets it. And we’ve got [Samuel] Dalembert, who is one of the best rim protectors. Then, on the rest of the team there’s no guys on paper that you’d say is an NBA stopper. We have to do it by showing a crowd, bringing a lot of help and by being really tied together.”
With Marion often guarding the best perimeter scorer for the other team and Dalembert looking to anchor the back line, the Mavericks tried to make up for the deficiencies of the Dallas defense. However, while often getting broken down off dribble penetration, the Mavs would struggle to keep teams from feasting in the painted area.
Entering training camp with nine new faces via the draft and free agency, the Mavs would go on to allow opposing teams to shoot 46.4 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc this season, which ranked 22nd and 15th in the league, respectively. Dallas also allowed teams to collect 11.5 offensive rebounds a game, finishing 24th in that department while failing to string together defensive stops.
Still, the Mavericks acknowledge that there’s room for improvement, vowing to recommit to the defensive side of the ball next season.
“We’ve got to continue to take pride in defense, keep guys in front of us and do a better job, starting with me and with all of us,” Dalembert said. “You know, we just have to do a better job. It’s not just specific people, it’s all of us as a group and as a team. We can score. I mean, we can see that we can score, but we’ve got to start holding opponents.”
However, with two of their better perimeter defenders set to enter free agency on July 1, the Mavs could have a much different look next season.
Hoping to re-sign Marion for his versatility and ability to defend multiple positions, the Mavericks’ brass will certainly make it a priority to meet with the 15-year veteran as soon as free agency begins. The same could be said for reserve guard Devin Harris, who stepped up on the defensive end in the Mavs’ second unit after battling back from offseason toe surgery.
And according to Carlisle, with less upheaval of the roster, the Mavs are fully capable of becoming a better defensive team next season.
“You know, defensively, we’ll be better next year,” the coach explained. “You know, again, I thought nine new guys was a challenging thing. The way Dalembert finished the season the last two months was really encouraging for next year, and yes, that’s another reason why Marion is important. And I think if we can get Devin Harris back next year and have him from start to finish, he’s one of our better defenders as well. So, we’ll keep working in that area and it will be a priority for us.”